Review – The Boy Named If by Elvis Costello & The Imposters

The Boy Named If

Elvis Costello and The Imposters

Released 14 January 2022  (EMI Records and Capitol Records)

I’m a little late to the game, but I wanted (very, very briefly) to review what I think is a fantastic album–and, as an Elvis Costello fanatic and aficionado, I had to give my two cents on this 2022 rock masterpiece.

The highlights for me:

  1. The Voice. It is no secret that Elvis has one of the most distinct voices in all of rock. Of course, some vehemently dislike this brand of distinctiveness. Yet, those in the know rightly rate it as a highly expressive tool. On this album, Elvis uses his well-worn voice to great effect–it is vulnerable, sincere, angry, pleading, plaintive, charging, courageous, and beautiful.
  2. The melodies. Elvis is also one of the great melodists–something frequently overlooked because of his gift for turning a fantastic lyrical phrase. This album has multiple beautiful melodies, and often many melodies contained within one song. In particular, “Penelope Halfpenny,” “The Difference,” “Mistook Me for a Friend,” and “Magnificent Hurt” have those unique Costello melodic turns–short melodies that flow by so quickly you’re left wanting more. Such is the apparent alacrity with which he writes his tunes that he fits pieces in one song that others would write whole songs around.
  3. The playing. This is a rock album. Elvis’ guitar is front and center here. Costello doesn’t often have his guitar feature quite as prominently on other records. For me, this album is comparable to Brutal Youth: a return to melodic-rock form. Others have compared it to Blood and Chocolate. In addition: Pete Thomas’ drums are, as usual, powerful and expressive. He seems to find the right thing to play so easily. Steve Nieve is as tasteful and skillful as ever: a true musician’s musician. David Faragher’s bass is bouncy, rubbery, and groovy. For an album recorded through distance (at least in part, from what I understand), it’s incredible how “in the room” these players sound.
  4. The lyrics. What else would one expect from an Elvis Costello album? He is as complicated as you like at one turn and as simple as you like the next. From “My Most Beautiful Mistake” (who else could pull off “besmirch” so fittingly and effortlessly?) to the simple “Paint the Red Rose Blue”–it’s all so exquisite.

Track Listing

1. “Farewell, OK” 2:54
2. “The Boy Named If” 4:24
3. “Penelope Halfpenny” 2:57
4. “The Difference” 3:45
5. “What If I Can’t Give You Anything But Love?” 4:03
6. “Paint the Red Rose Blue” 4:46
7. “Mistook Me for a Friend” 4:13
8. “My Most Beautiful Mistake” 4:47
9. “Magnificent Hurt” 3:13
10. “The Man You Love to Hate” 4:53
11. “The Death of Magic Thinking” 3:31
12. “Trick Out the Truth” 4:53
13. “Mr. Crescent” 3:39
Total length: 51:58